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Investigation into deadly bus crash reveals inadequate highway markings

Driver was confused on position of bus during dark, rainy circumstances, NTSB finds

Posted March 31, 2017

A bus crash that killed two passengers and injured 14 others including the driver was the result of the state’s failure to provide adequate traffic guidance and highway markings, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded after its investigation.

The accident occurred on January 19, 2016, in San Jose, California, when the bus struck a crash attenuator, rode up a barrier, rolled onto its right side, and came to rest atop the barrier with its undercarriage facing traffic. NTSB’s investigation revealed:

  • The bus exited left from Highway 101 under rainy conditions in the darkness of early morning;
  • Worn and missing highway markings prevented the driver from realizing he was in the adjacent gore (the paved area between the main lane and the exit lane) rather than the exit lane; and
  • As a result, the bus was in the path of an unmarked, energy-absorbing barrier called a crash attenuator, and ahead of the attenuator was the concrete barrier.

The California Department of Transportation did not mark the gore with stripes or chevrons, which are often used to differentiate the gore from the roadway.

NTSB also notes that only two of the 21 passengers were wearing the available seat belts, contributing to the severity of the injuries. The two passengers who died in the crash were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the bus.

As a result of its findings, NTSB recommends:

  • Painting chevrons in gore areas,
  • Improvements to left-exit signage, and
  • Pre-trip safety briefings by the bus company to include the importance and use of seat belts.

The full report will be available in a few weeks on the NTSB website.

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